Libertarians and What Is and Isn't War

For those of us who consider ourselves quasi-libertarians — which is to say we like a lot of the “Don’t Tread on Me” stuff but can’t bring ourselves to dive head first into the nihilism of extreme libertarianism — there is generally at least one policy idea that’s a deal breaker.


Maybe the legalization of marijuana isn’t appealing to you. Perhaps some of the more unsavory past associations with early libertarian thinking make you queasy (but what ideology doesn’t have those skeletons, really?). Possibly one-time Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson asking “What is Aleppo?” is your Achilles heel. What I’m saying is, there’s a reason many libertarians distinguish themselves as “small l” or “Big L” (ideology vs. party) libertarians. They don’t go all in, either.

My personal break with the libertarians comes — and always has — with their general position on foreign policy, and I was reminded why just a few days ago when the U.S. responded to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical gas attacks in Syria with a surgical strike of an airfield said to be the staging ground for the poison gas launch.

Hoo boy did the libertarians — a great many of them staunch supporters of President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign — express their displeasure with the administration they had so recently defended as the one to “make America great again.” So many of them took off their red hats with a sigh, began posting old Trump tweets indicating the future president’s past preference for non-involvement in Syria when President Obama was in office, and began talking in angry tones about the illegality of going to war without Congressional approval.


And this, frankly, is where I get off their train, wave, roll my eyes, and thank God they’re not more powerful than they are. Because in their need to damn their ancient arch nemeses The Hated Neocons for getting us into ANOTHER war in the middle east, they overlook a very simple truth about what happened last week: The only people talking about war are them.

There’s a fundamental misunderstanding they seem to have about the usefulness of a surgical strike, with warning beforehand, intended to damage infrastructure and equipment rather than take human lives. Those kinds of moves are intended to prevent war, not wage it.

Is it a risk to remind the despots of the world that, in contradiction to what they may have believed for the past 8 years, the U.S. is armed, unafraid and looking for allies? Without question. But strength and leadership carry those risks. I tend to agree with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky): “I thought it was very clear what this strike was about. You don’t use chemical weapons without consequences. I think that’s a pretty clear message, and I don’t necessarily read into that a larger strategy in the area.”

And don’t even get me started on the libertarian tendency toward demanding that military action that IS NOT WAR be carefully considered by Congress in its painstaking and exasperatingly snail’s pace, something that at least Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul (the libertarian’s cult hero) is beginning to recognize as impractical and counter-productive.


In any event, as a friend of mine noted to me the other day, it’s good to have the libertarians there expressing their predilection for isolationism because, if we didn’t, we may end up the hawkish warmongers most libertarians already think we are. So, thanks for that libertarians. I wish the world was a nicer place for you.


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